Conference delay might cost UC Merced

yamaro@mercedsunstar.comApril 1, 2013 

UC Merced may lose a little bit of money by having to postpone a conference because of the federal sequester cuts, an official said Wednesday.

The university had already paid a small amount for the deposit to rent rooms for the fourth annual National Parks Institute, said Sam Traina, vice chancellor for research at UC Merced.

The two-week event was planned for April 15-26, but it will have to be delayed.

The event is geared to national parks officials across the country as well as officials from protected lands around the world.

But as a result of the sequestration cuts, there's a ban on national parks officials traveling certain distances, Traina said. And almost half of those expected for the conference wouldn't be able to attend.

Sequestration cuts, across-the-board funding reductions for government agencies, went into effect March 1. They are meant to help trim the nation's more than $16 trillion debt.

"We are hoping to be able to do it in September, depending on whether or not there's still an embargo on travel," Traina said.

Typically, about 30 people participate in the conference, Traina said. About 15 of them are national parks employees and the other half are international protected land officials.

UC Merced had some money from grants to cover travel expenses for the national parks officials, but they were not allowed to travel even if the school provided the funds, Traina said.

The money the school expects to lose from pushing back the conference is a small amount and came from a federal grant, Traina said.

The conference provides an opportunity for national parks officials and their international counterparts to discuss the challenges they face, Traina said.

Climate change is one of those issues.

"They learn from us and we learn from them," he said.

Part of the conference takes place at Golden Gate National Recreation Area, UC Merced and Yosemite National Park. "There's a lot of important work that can be done," he said.

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